Grammar Review for Police Officer Exam Study Guide (page 2)
The basis of everything you read and everything you will be asked to write is a complete sentence. A paragraph is a collection of complete sentences. Although many portions of police reports require you only to fill in or check boxes, almost all reports require some narrative. Narrative means you will be asked to write about what happened, what others did or said, and what action(s) you took. All this information must be in standard, proper English, with no slang or jargon (police-talk that others will not understand), and in complete sentences. Poorly written reports will most likely be sent back to you by a supervisor for you to rewrite. If you concentrate on what you want to say and then on how you want to say it, you are less likely to make the kinds of grammar and spelling errors that will cost you points on the exam and that will later cause you to have rewrite your work.
You probably recall from high school or college English classes that the basis of a sentence is a subject and a verb that join together with other words to form one complete idea. A sentence fragment generally lacks a subject or a verb and does not contain a complete idea. Look at the following pairs of word groups. The first in each pair is a sentence fragment; the second is a complete sentence.
Many exams test your grasp of sentences by giving you four examples from which you will have to select the proper, complete sentence. To get you in the mindset for these questions, look at the word group pairs below and select the ones that are complete sentences.
- We saw the squad car approaching.
- When we saw the squad car approaching.
- Before the prison was built in 1972.
- The prison was built in 1972.
- Because we were on duty in the morning.
- We were on duty in the morning.
If you chose 1. a, 2. b, 3. b, you were correct. You might have noticed that the groups of words are the same, but the fragments have an extra word at the beginning. These words are called subordinating conjuctions. If a group of words that would normally be a complete sentence is preceded by a subordinating conjunction, something more is needed to complete the thought.
In the following three sentences, the thoughts have been completed.
- When we saw the squad car approaching, we flagged it down.
- Before the prison was built in 1972, the old jailhouse was demolished.
- Because we were on duty in the morning, we went to bed early.
Here is a list of words that are frequently used as subordinating conjunctions. Use each in a sentence to get a better idea of the rule. Be careful, though. Sometimes a group of words that begin with a subordinating conjunction can still be a complete sentence. You must read the entire sentence before deciding if it is correct or incorrect.
A run-on sentence is a sentence that contains more than one idea (usually meaning it has more than one subject and more than one verb) and lacks proper punctuation. To recognize a run-on sentence, look for two or more ideas run together (hence the phrase run-on) that are not separated by a comma or a semicolon. If a sentence is a true run-on, you should be able to find a place in the word grouping where you could add a period to make two correct sentences. If you can tell when a group of words is not a sentence, you can probably tell when two or more sentences have been run together. The types of questions that ask you to find a run-on sentence will be identical to those that ask you to find fragments. You will be given four choices—one will be a complete sentence and the others will be run-ons. You will be asked to indicate which one is correct. To get you in mindset for these questions, look at the word group pairs below and select the ones that are complete sentences.
- We went to the academy we had a good time.
- We went to the academy, where we had a good time.
- The rookies were all young and were male and female and some kept sloppy bunks.
- The rookies, both young men and women, kept sloppy bunks.
- Studying grammar is hard and more difficult than I thought and it reminds me too much of grade school.
- Studying grammar is hard; it is difficult and it reminds me too much of grade school.
You should have selected choice b in all three sets. In each case, choice a put too many ideas into one sentence and do not use any punctuation to separate those ideas. Remember, a good way to find run-on sentences is to look for a place where you can put a period to separate one part of the long string of words. If both halves of the original sentence can stand alone with a subject and verb and each conveys a complete idea, you have probably located a run-on sentence. Some run-on sentences can be fixed with a comma separating the two ideas; others require a semicolon.
Fragment and Run-On Sample Questions
These six questions provide examples of how fragment and run-on questions will appear on many police officer exams. Note that they may be phrased slightly differently; some may ask you to find the complete sentence, others may ask you to find the fragment or the run-on.
- Which of the following groups of words is a complete sentence?
- The contraband buried beneath the floorboards beside the fireplace.
- After we spent considerable time considering all the possibilities before making our decision.
- After considering all the evidence, the detective made a decision on who might have committed the crime.
- In addition to the methods the detective used to solve the crime.
- Which of the following groups of words is a complete sentence?
- Because he was a cop.
- This was fun to do.
- Whether we learned.
- If we ever see them again.
- Select the group of words that are NOT a complete sentence.
- The historical account of the incident bore the most resemblance to fact.
- The historical account was factual.
- When the historical account became known.
- The historical account shocked the professor.
- Which of the following groups of words is a run-on sentence?
- Jack and Jill went up a hill and Jack fell down and Jill picked him up and then Jack and Jill went home.
- Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water.
- Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water but got lost along the way.
- Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water the day before yesterday.
- Which of the following group of word is NOT a run-on sentence?
- Whenever I put on my uniform, I am filled with a sense of pride.
- The special services unit completed its work and made a report and before going home asked the chief whether she wanted to read it.
- We slept soundly, and we never heard the alarm and we missed breakfast.
- Whenever I put on my uniform I am filled with a sense of pride and then I wonder what I would have done if I had not become a police officer and I don't have any idea.
- Which of the following group of words is NOT a run-on sentence?
- I went home and went to sleep and Jimmy woke me up and came over and then we did homework.
- I went home, went to sleep, woke up, and then did homework.
- I went home and then I went to sleep and then Jimmy woke me up and then he came over and then we did homework.
- ALL are run-on sentences.
- c. Despite starting with the subordinate conjunction after, choice c contains a subject, verb, and complete thought. None of the other choices express complete thoughts.
- b. Choice b is the only group of words that contains a complete thought. If you read the others carefully, you should have asked yourself what, because something was missing. What was supposed to happen because he was a good cop; what would happen whether we learned; what happened if we ever see them again?
- c. Choice c is the only group of words that does not contain a complete thought. If you read it carefully, you would have asked yourself: What happened when the historical account became known? Once that question came into your mind, you should have recognized that the group of words did not contain a complete thought. Note also that this question did not ask which is; it asked which is not. You must read the question carefully to make sure that you know what you are being asked to look for.
- a. Choice a can be separated into difference sentences wherever the word and appears or by using commas to replace some of the ands. The other choices express single thoughts or are properly constructed to convey more than one idea.
- a. Choice a is the only one that is comprised of one complete thought with proper punctuation between the subordinate clause and the rest of the sentence.
- b. Although choice b includes a number of verbs, there is only one subject and there is continuous action by only one person.
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